Welcome to the Month of May! A heaped month of IndyCar awaits us and to kick it off, we had an entertaining mixed-strategy race at Barber that had the first non-Penske win of the year, as Pato O’Ward won out a narrow head-to-head with Alex Palou, but the stories came up and down the field. Let’s do this a little differently and let’s break down some of this Top 10 as a race review. Read on:
Winner – Pato O’Ward. Arguably his strongest race in IndyCar to date, and he’s already had some great days. He stayed within range of Rinus Veekay in the first two stints, and when Rinus was caught behind Jimmie Johnson on his second in-lap, Pato punished him and then put on a stunning outside pass at Charlotte’s web for the win, then went fast enough to beat Palou’s undercut and hold him off. Superb pace when it mattered most.
Which makes his contract situation all the more intriguing. There’s murmurs Pato wants a Championship team OR a McLaren F1 seat. McLaren are desperate to keep him as their American/Mexican crossover star. Jenna Fryer reported that McLaren also has a 75% retention rate on any outside offer, and Zak Brown just isn’t making him that sort of offer, and I’m not convinced he ever will. Especially when he’s signed Colton Herta to a developmental contract… It’s a mess and I’m not sure there’s going to be a happy outcome here.
Second – Alex Palou. I swear to God this man is a magician. It’s still understandably hard to fathom given he’s still relatively new to the series, but it’s becoming hard to find a genuine weakness in his game. He’s never had the greatest ultimate pace, but he stayed in range, ran an overcut for his 2nd and final stint and then came alive at the end. He’s just so unassuming but the way he executes in race is so, SO good. He reminds me of Scott Dixon. And that’s about the greatest praise I can give him.
Third – Rinus Veekay. Great to see Rinus back to his best after that injury last year derailed a promising season. I still think he has some issues to iron out with late race tyre wear because he had this same issue come up at St Pete. But the pace is still more than there, leading more laps than anyone else from pole. I don’t know why Rossi is getting all the McLaren talk when I think THIS should be the man people need to be lining up for. HE’S STILL ONLY 21.
Fourth – Will Power. Fourth is the floor for Will at the moment. He still has the best average finish position in the field – 3.75. Only difference is this time, he came from 19th on the grid to do it. Exceptional pace, passed easily, got back up the field. Power is back, and heading to one of his strongest tracks next. Look out.
Sixth – Scott McLaughlin. Not his finest result, but him running third for most of the race suggests his Street/Road track pace is real and not going away. A big 500, and we can start talking about title contention.
Seventh and Eighth – Grosjean and Rahal. These two had beef at the end of the race. Grosjean hit Rahal’s car on the outside twice at Charlotte’s web. Now, Grosjean probably tagged Rahal on purpose. It was unnecessary contact. But Graham going absolutely ballistic about this after the race was so unnecessary and confirms a lot of the reputation he has by being a salty loser.
Implying retaliation is just not cool in open wheel racing. You can’t do that, and it brings the sport into disrepute. But implying that other drivers have problems with him (Which I just can’t buy given his time in the series) and that he’s overstayed his welcome is… just uncalled for. Petty.
Tenth – Colton Herta. *sighs* It finally hit me. Colton Herta is IndyCar’s Marc Marquez. His upside is brighter than anyone’s in this series and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the entertainment here. He was 3-stopping when the 2-stopper was optimal, and he made the most of the extra pace by breaking half the field over his knee. But then you see the bad side of Colton where he took one lunge too many on Scott McLaughlin and spun himself back into 10th. Turned a great day into a forgettable one. Such a shame.